Category Archives: Travels

A snowy weekend in Andorra

A long-planned weekend in Andorra with my three boys. In January? Expect snow.

I’m posting this report reluctantly because it reveals my dubious decision-making. On reflection, I perhaps should have called off the trip at the start, given the weather. But with a no-refund hotel booking and boys who would have been bitterly disappointed if unable to go, my judgment was biased towards proceeding. Continue reading

Finally we use sleds

For once, we were finally able to use a sled.  A toboggan.  Being a Wednesday, I had school in the morning.  Naturally.  It was boring.  But while I was at school, Dad went out to a large sports shop near Carcassonne, called Decathlon.  They have so many things there, including sleds.  Dad got two sleds.  One big, red one with brakes, and one small green one that looks a bit like a spade.  When I got home from school, we made sandwiches, and Dad, Nicholas and I went into the snow.

Continue reading

L’Arche Perdue – sequel to Holes

Today I join the local walking group on their walk up to L’Arche Perdue, the hole in the rock above Maury. Last month I wrote about that remarkable rock formation and my hope to visit it. This is the walk that was scheduled for last month but cancelled due to high winds. Today is also windy but we do it anyway. I drive to the meeting point at Maury, half-way between Quillan and the Mediterranean coast. We have friends at Maury, very close to the meeting point, so going there brings back happy memories of pit stops and a summer evening barbecue three years ago. Continue reading

Ascending to the eagle’s nest at Queribus 

With a long weekend ahead of us, Tom and I decided to take the opportunity for a night away in the wine-growing region to the South-East of Quillan.

Driving east on the D117 and not in any hurry, this was our chance to do some exploring along the way, so we planned a relaxed start, a leisurely walk up to one of the many neighbouring Cathar castles, a long auberge lunch, and a mid-afternoon wine tasting on the domaine where we’d booked to stay the night in a simple gite.

When the weather dawned cold, misty, wet and windy on the morning of our departure, we refused to be put off. But it did make for a more interesting and memorable experience.

   Continue reading

Elephant experience

Our first stop on our trip to France was in Bangkok, where we did a full day elephant experience at an elephant rescue centre, three hours by car south towards Malaysia.  The centre was really fun and they actually had many other types of animals there too.  Like sun bears and Asiatic black bears and iguanas and jackals.  All the animals that they have at the reserve were rescued by the centre from service.

Continue reading

Parallel lives

It’s been three months since we returned from Quillan. We’ve now been back as long as we were there, and although the time has gone fast, paradoxically our experience already feels like a lifetime ago.

In fact, it feels like another whole life time. It’s quite surreal to think that, only three months ago, we were living in France, the boys attending school, operating completely in another language.

I’ve recently been reading a book written by an Australian woman who took her young family to live in France, initially for several months. Now they spend six months of every year in France, with the other half back in Australia.

I love these books and will never tire of reading them because they remind me that such a life is possible – if you want it enough. This is the life I would love. It’s just a question of whether I want it enough to make it happen.

I’ve been contemplating for some time that we are already living our lives in parallel. On the one hand, we are very much present in our lives in New Zealand – and yet we always have half a mind thousands of kilometres away in a French village. We find ourselves randomly rambling in French at odd times of the day. We dream of baguette and croissants – fresh, warm and crusty from the boulangerie.

287 Wellington city and harbour.

So imagine my surprise when I realised that we really ARE living our lives in parallel – on the 42nd parallel to be precise. The Aude is on the 42nd parallel North. Wellington is on the 42nd parallel South.

Karma.

The tiny commune of Quirbajou

When we visited the village Quirbajou yesterday I was surprised to see it has a mairie (town hall). It therefore must be a commune, which is an administrative level in France. There is, as far as I know, no equivalent in New Zealand. Communes in France have a town hall, a mayor, and a town council. They have responsibility for many of the functions that in New Zealand would be carried out by district or city councils. But Quirbajou is so tiny! At the last census it had a population of 36. How can such a small population support a mayor and town council? Continue reading